Sunday, May 10, 2009

Burma and Bangladesh to Meet on Pressing Issues

By Takaloo, Dhaka (Narinajara): Burma and Bangladesh have scheduled a foreign minister level meeting from 15 - 17 May in Burma's new capital Naypyidaw to discuss emergency bilateral issues, according to local media.

The Bangladeshi diplomatic team led by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will leave for Naypyidaw on 14 May for the three-day meeting, which will focus on the dispute over the border fence, the maritime boundary, repatriation of Rohingya refugees, and restarting the highway project, reported Zai Zai Din, a Bengali newspaper.

Starting from the dispute over the maritime boundary that was averted by diplomatic resolutions last November, Burma and Bangladesh have been locked in tensions again and again concerning territorial issues.

According to border sources, Burma's recent border fence project that was undertaken without official consultation with Bangladesh has worsened relations between the two friendly neighbors.

A meeting between the border forces of the two countries was held recently to discus the construction of fence structures along the border, but ended without any understanding between the two parties.

According to recent reports, Burma's Nasaka warned Bangladesh about making a big deal out of the border issues, and Bangladesh's BDR representatives stated that they would not tolerate Burma's further construction in contravention of international border laws.

Burma shares a border of 320 kilometers with Bangladesh, and it is mostly demarcated by the Naff River.

In addition to the border tensions, the issue of Rohingya refugees poses a longstanding burden on bilateral ties between the two countries. Bangladesh is now on alert along the border for a feared influx of refugees due to Burma's border fence construction, while repatriation of current refugees has been stalled for more than three years by Burma's refusal to take them back.

Apart from finding solutions to territorial tensions, the high level Bangladesh diplomatic team will also propose restarting the cross-border highway that was agreed upon by the two nations in 2005.

A cross-border businessman said that increasing bilateral trade between the two nations was as critical as resolving the border tension.

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